The summer I had the chance to work with 20 teenagers whose paid summer job will be to write, produce, and tour a production. It has been a wonderful and challenging experience, which I hope to capture in these next few blogs.
The performance will be a mixture of theatre, hip hop, poetry, dance, and music. The five week program ends with the participants touring their production around the City of Austin, including: Dell Children’s Hospital, a youth correctional facility, an elderly care facility, Heart House (a non-profit that works with youth in low income housing complexes,) Helping Hand Home (a non-profit that works with youth who are in foster care,) and the Boys and Girls Club in east Austin.
The students’ final performance will be on the historic 94 year-old Paramount stage in downtown Austin, Sunday August 2 at 4 p.m.
We have gotten off to a great start with a really diverse group of students who come from high schools in Austin and Del Valle. Below are pictures of the first two weeks, which will give you an idea of the process so far. I think it is going to be a great show that will be entertaining, enlightening, and represent Austin youth in a positive light.
The students spent a lot of time writing in their journals to generate material. Here are some selected pieces from a few of the students called “The Truth About Me”:
“The truth about me is that I never got locked up, and I’ve never been in a gang. I am going to graduate high school, go to college, get my degree, and find a nice job that pays a lot of money. The truth about me is that my dad left my mom when she was still pregnant with me. My dad got locked up. I haven’t seen him for 15 years. My mom tells me that he is not part of my life. School is very important to my future. I wanna help poor people and I want to help kids in positive ways.”
“The truth about me is that I come from two people I call mom and dad. Well I don’t call my dad ‘Dad.’ He’s my step-dad and I call him Anthony. When I was in my mom’s belly, I felt someone kicking me. I was like ‘Who’s doing that?’ The truth about me is that I am a twin…we are two minutes apart. I used to live in an apartment with six kids, my mom, and Anthony. My life was crazy. The truth about me is that people will look at me and think like, ‘He sells crack,’ or ‘He is going to start something like a fight with someone else.’ But the truth about me is that I’m not bad. I don’t talk back to anybody. I am a wise smart man. One day I am going to have a child of my own. He is going to call me dad.”
“The truth about me is that I am not always as happy as I seem, but I am not afraid to admit that. The truth is that I rely too much on the words of musicians and songwriters to make myself feel like I am not alone. The truth about me is that I’m a worry-wart. Sometimes, I feel trapped in the life I’ve begun to create. But other times, my pride and happiness engulf me in the most furious of flames, erupting like no other. And all I want to do is spread this joy to others, like a wild fire. The truth about me is that I still sleep with my stuffed blue bunny at night. The truth about me, is that sometimes I can’t tell the difference between my memories and dreams.”
We also spend a lot of time using improvisation as a tool to devise material.
The students worked with hip-hop dance artists to generate material for the show.
The teens in the group also are writing original songs for the show.